Inbound marketing brings visitors to your website and lets you market to people without hard sell techniques. This is a huge advantage for new businesses, because consumers increasingly view outbound marketing as a nuisance that should be avoided.
By using inbound marketing, you can avoid having to cold call, and you don’t have to pester people to buy. Instead, you create an environment where the content attracts the audience.
The key concept with inbound is pulling people in, rather than pushing your message towards them. If your content is awesome, and your social media channels are reaching the right people, you will kick-start conversations that lead to sales.
Prepare the Foundations
Before you begin with inbound marketing, you need to do some research. In this first step, you will gather data and look at the competition.
- Clearly define your goals. Do you want more visitors to your website? More newsletter subscribers? Better profit margins? Better marketing ROI? If you don’t have a clear target, you will find it difficult to focus. Goals need to be realistic for your business, and relevant to your message.
- Decide how you’re going to measure success. You can’t start an inbound marketing campaign without using analytics. What will you measure to figure out whether your inbound campaign is working? Google Analytics is fine for starters; if you have cash to spend, there are tools design specifically for the job.
- Do your competitors have weak points? Analyse their content and social media presence, and figure out where you could gain an advantage. Going for weak spots is much less challenging than trying to do battle in areas where competitors already dominate.
- What’s your budget? Inbound marketing is inexpensive, but you’ll inevitably need to outsource. Look for people you can delegate to, and set aside both funding and time to get it right.
Planning Your SEO Strategy
SEO is a component of inbound marketing. It can’t work magic by itself, but you need a coherent SEO strategy to support the rest of your efforts.
- Do keyword research. Choose terms relevant to your customers and try to think like them. Google AdWords can give you rich data that will help you find low-competition keywords.
- Implement a site map. While it isn’t compulsory, it improves the chances of all your content being indexed by Google. Most platforms, like WordPress, support automatic sitemap generation via plugins. Try Google XML Sitemaps for starters.
- Measure your site speed. Excessively slow speeds frustrate people, and your ranking will suffer as a result. Make sure your site is fast by choosing a good website hosting company, running caching plugins and setting up a CDN.
If you want to attract visitors and drive sales, you need content. Not just any content: tailored, interesting, and high-quality content.
- Know your audience. If your audience loves bananas, don’t write content about oranges. Understand what people want, and give them real value. Remember to focus on your ideal customer — not the low hanging fruit who will never spend.
- Diversify your content. Use articles, videos, podcasts, and ebooks to spread your reach among different types of users. Set aside some of your budget to hire freelancers who can develop content that is outside your comfort zone.
- Reach out personally. Inbound marketing is effective because it speaks to people directly. Don’t automate: engage. Make sure your social media channels are monitored, and you respond to all of the comments on your blog. Also, ensure you are always accredited as the author on the posts you write, so that people associate your name with quality content.
- Come up with original content ideas. Collectively, we upload billions of articles to the internet every day. You’re going to need to come up with lots and lots of unique ideas if you want your content to be valued.
- Devise a strategy. Your content strategy is the culmination of all of your research efforts. Decide what you’re going to cover, how frequently you’re going to post, and how you’re going to use your content to pull visitors towards your site. Create a blog calendar and aim to publish content frequently to build interest in your site. Expect to spend a few hours a month extending and shaping your strategy.
- Recycle content. Getting good quality content can be expensive, but you can re-use your ideas in different ways to make your investment go further. Consider turning a great blog post into a video, a slide show, white paper, or an infographic — or talk about it in your weekly podcast or vlog.
- Work on your call to action. It’s great to get lots of visitors to your content, but that won’t normally pay the bills. Focus on developing a strong call to action so that your visitors are prompted to complete a desired activity. Refer back to the goals you identified in the planning stages.
- Test your website usability. Make sure the layers around your content give your users a great experience. Check the layout, navigation and site speed to ensure you aren’t putting obstacles between visitors and content.
- Experiment with pop-ups. Some people are turned off by email subscribe forms, but the data proves that they work. Test your content with and without pop-ups to see what works best for your site.
- Install sharing plugins. Make it super-easy for your readers to share your content on social sites.
Shouting It Out Loud
Now you have your content strategy, it’s time to put the plan into action. In order to get people to read your content, you need to make social connections and market your business beyond your own tiny corner of the web.
- Focus your efforts on the right social networks. There’s no point spending 3 hours each day on Twitter if your audience hangs out on LinkedIn. Look at opportunities to work on networks your competitors have neglected.
- Consistently manage your social channels. For a customer, an empty and unloved social media account could signal a company that doesn’t care about engagement. Unless you are a social media expert, managing different accounts is probably something to outsource so you attack each channel in the most efficient way possible.
- Sign up for PPC ads. Most businesses start with Google AdWords, but you can try Bing ads, or ads on social networks. PPC is a huge topic; again, this may be something you should delegate to an expert unless you have time to learn the tricks.
- Build links to your content. Link building is a huge topic, and it would be impossible to cover everything here. In a nutshell, you should look to build high quality links from high profile sources, authentically, and without any form of payment or exchange. Moz has published an excellent Beginner’s Guide to Link Building to get you started.
- Put out a press release. Any business can put out a release to announce a new venture.
- Engage influencers. An influencer is someone who has authority in a articular industry. If you can get influencers on board to share your content, you have a potentially valuable way to drive new traffic to your site. Twitter is a great place to find and approach influencers and strike up conversations.
Optimizing and Refining
This final chapter is not the end of your inbound marketing journey. It’s the stage where the entire inbound marketing plan comes together. You’ll measure your success, see whether your goals are being achieved, and feed the results back into your plan. As you continue to market your site, you will find new ways to tweak and optimize. The whole thing is circular.
- Split test. Try different call to action sections, different layouts and different color schemes. Split test your AdWords campaigns, landing pages and mobile vs desktop traffic. This kind of testing lets you quickly see what is performing best.
- Personalize your marketing campaign. Once you have an audience, talk to each person directly. Hyper-personalization does away with broad segments and looks for ways to treat people like individuals and deliver customized content that they love.
- Review old content. If you have old posts that are performing well, go back and work on them. Keep them fresh, and tweak the layout to improve conversions. If old posts don’t perform as you expected, rewrite them, add detail, and try marketing them again. There’s nothing wrong with deleting old posts that are out of date, as long as you are careful not to remove anything that is driving organic traffic.
Small Steps = Great Results
Inbound marketing works well for businesses because it delivers the information customers want, in the way they want to consume it. It looks for their pain points and problems, and provides content that addresses each one. Inbound marketing also wraps up everything you need to publicize a business into one package. If managed properly, it can turbocharge marketing ROI.
There are two key takeaways to remember when you’re using inbound marketing for the first time. One, invest in inbound marketing for the long term, and don’t abandon it if it takes a while to build. Second, don’t cut corners on content, and be creative when planning what to write. The more you spend, the more cost effective it will be, and the more your customers will love you.